Tories should vote Labour in Scotland to keep SNP out, Lord Tebbit suggests

Nicola Sturgeon chairs Forum meeting

Conservative party supporters should consider voting tactically for Labour in most areas of Scotland as the best way of supporting the UK, the former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit has said.

Amid deepening unease among Tory grandees at the party leadership’s attacks on Ed Miliband over possible plans for a post-election pact with the SNP, Tebbit said it was “logical” to vote Labour in areas where Conservatives stand no chance.

He said: “From the Tories’ point of view we are not going to come home with a vast number of seats from Scotland. We know that. So the choice is would we rather have a Scot Nat or Labour? I think, on balance, probably a Labour MP would be a more reasonable thing to have.”

Asked whether he was advising natural Tory supporters to vote Labour in areas where it faces a battle with the SNP, Tebbit said: “I hesitate to say that. But it is logical from where I stand.”

Tebbit, whose comments were echoed in part by the former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, joined the former Scotland secretary Lord Forsyth of Drumlean in expressing unease at David Cameron’s attacks on Labour over a possible deal with the SNP. Tebbit said of Cameron’s tactics: “It is perhaps not altogether wise … we are compounding the problem. The Scottish Nats are writ large Ukip – they come from the same creation, the irritation with the Westminster establishment.”

The former Conservative chairman said the Tories, who only had one MP in the last Holyrood parliament, should fold up in Scotland and form a joint pro-UK party. He said: “What is needed in Scotland from the Tories’ point of view is to wrap up the Conservative party and put down a little bit of fertiliser on the ground to encourage the growth of a Scottish unionist party. That’s what politics in Scotland is short of – a Scottish-rooted genuine unionist party like the Ulster Unionists were before Ted Heath mucked it up.”

Miliband spoke out against the Tory claims about a possible Labour-SNP alliance as he accused the prime minister of demeaning himself and his office by endangering the union in an attempt to stay in Downing Street.

Instead of confronting the SNP, the Labour leader said, Cameron was talking the party up to highlight the threat of a hung parliament and persuade voters to back a majority Tory government.

In a vitriolic attack at a rally in Manchester, Miliband said: “David Cameron is setting one part of part of the UK against another. That is dangerous. He is talking up the SNP chances and not taking it on. That is dangerous.”

Polls suggest the SNP could gain up to 50 of Scotland’s 59 seats. Labour is furious with the Tories because Miliband has ruled out forming a coalition with the SNP but has declined to say he will not accept a less formal arrangement in the case of a hung parliament for fear of appearing to disenfranchise Scottish voters.

The Tories stepped up their warnings as Sir John Major joined the fray, saying that such a deal represented a clear and present danger to the UK. Speaking in Solihull, in the West Midlands, the former prime minister said: “Let me not mince my words: the SNP is a clear and present danger to our future. They will pit Scotland against England. That could be disastrous to the people of Scotland – and fatal to the UK as a whole.”

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP first minister, described Major’s comments as “an affront to democracy” while pledging to support Labour on measures to improve pay and working conditions.

Rifkind said that he would face a dilemma if he were voting in a Scottish constituency where Labour or the Liberal Democrats were the main challenger to the SNP. The former foreign secretary, who served as the MP for Edinburgh Pentlands between 1974 and 1997, stopped short of calling for tactical voting. However, he said that if he lived in Gordon, where the Lib Dem candidate Christine Jardine is the main challenger to the former SNP first minister Alex Salmond, he would face a difficult choice.

Rifkind said: “I have thought about that question hypothetically and I can’t give 100% assurances as to what my answer would be. I can see arguments in somewhere like Gordon that if people think they can defeat Salmond it would be very tempting.”

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley predicted that a Labour government supported by the SNP would lead to an earlier than expected rise in interest rates.

It said: “We believe that such an arrangement would lead to the greatest uncertainty and investors would quickly price in the prospect of a substantially looser fiscal policy. The presumption of an anti-austerity tendency would put the pact of austerity/loose monetary policy in doubt and we would expect the market to price in an earlier bank rate hike than was previously the case.”

A Conservative spokesman said: “This confirms that working people will pay the price for an SNP-Ed Miliband government. Mortgage rate rises will hit homeowners. Higher borrowing will mean higher taxes and more debt for our children to repay. The only way to stop this economic chaos from happening is to vote Conservative on 7 May.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent and Patrick Wintour Political editor, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 21st April 2015 20.13 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010